A Clinical and Radiation Oncologist at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Prof. Sunday Adewuyi, has disclosed that myth and belief have been slowing down the rate of success in cancer treatment in Nigeria.
Speaking on the celebration of the 2019 World Cancer Day, the university Don in Abuja on Wednesday observed that cancer is real and does not discriminate against tribe, religion, sex, educational level or political class.
In his words, “Cancer is a very complex disease that is not yet properly understood by some of our people which makes it more of a problem in our society.
“Some rural people, and even some of the elite, attribute cancer disease to spiritual attack or punishment from the gods.
“Some, due to their religion wouldn’t go to see doctors in their area or discuss with neighbours for fear of being branded a sinner or being punished by the ‘gods’”, Prof. Adewuyi said.
He said that some cancer patients did not initially believed in orthodox medicine and treatment until it was too late.
Prof. Adewuyi further noted that “Some of the challenges faced by cancer health care-givers are apathy and loss of confidence in orthodox treatment and the non-inclusion of comprehensive cancer care in National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
“Cancer success story depends on early detection and treatment but in some cases, majority of the patients come to the hospital when it is already too late to handle”, he said.
Prof. Adewuyi also pointed out that a nation’s healthcare delivery system had significant inputs from all stakeholders and that a good synergy was required to achieve optimal care.
Enumerating some of the challenges faced by cancer patients in Nigeria, he said, “Low insurance coverage to reduce financial burden on patients, deficient supply chain for drugs and consumables, lack of dedicated centres with optimal infrastructure and manpower”.
He added that other challenges were lack of legislation and policies to fund cancer centres and cancer care.
“Poor funding at all levels of government results from the fact that the National budget for oncology is too small,’’ he said.
He therefore called for the declaration of a state-of-emergency in cancer care in Nigeria and 100 per cent implementation of the 2018-2022 plan.
“There is the need for NHIS to carter sufficiently for cancer patients and also a need for strategic funding for cancer patients as is done for HIV patients.’’
He said that the Federal Government was working hard to improve the quality of life of cancer patients in the country.
“There are ongoing programmes, like reduction in cervical cancer through strategic plans, and national vaccination sponsored by the World Health Organisation, both programmes of which are at advanced stages.
“There is also an ongoing training and retraining of oncologists and other specialists in centres with linear accelerators, done in partnership with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
“There is also rehabilitation of old centres and the building of new Bunkers for linear accelerators example (ABUTH Zaria) and increase in access to radiotherapy in the country.